ATLANTA (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced another stunning defeat.
Instead, they pulled one out in overtime.
Bouncing back after blowing a 17-point lead, the Bucs got a 31-yard field goal from Connor Barth in the extra period to beat the mistake-prone Atlanta Falcons 23-20 on Sunday.
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Matt Ryan tied the game for the Falcons (6-2) on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones with 17 seconds left in regulation. Having squandered a 24-point edge the previous week at Washington, the Bucs (3-4) were in trouble again.
Instead, Jameis Winston led an impressive drive on the first possession of OT, converting three times on third down before the drive finally stalled when he short-hopped a pass in the end zone intended for an open Adam Humphries. Barth came on to make his third field goal of the game.
Atlanta got the ball but didn’t even make it to midfield. On fourth down, Ryan was heavily pressured by Gerald McCoy and Howard Jones, forcing a desperation pass that wasn’t close to anyone.
Tampa Bay finally got to celebrate.
Despite four turnovers, the Falcons rallied from a 20-3 deficit, benefiting from a highly questionable decision by Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Bucs 40 with 2 minutes to go.
Winston looked to pass, then attempted to run, only to get stuffed on a big hit by Ricardo Allen. The Falcons — with no timeouts but a much shorter field to work with than they would’ve had after a punt — drove for the tying touchdown. Jones got loose in the back of the end zone to haul in the pass from Ryan.
But the Falcons were again their own worst enemy. The lost three fumbles and threw an interception, running their turnover total to 12 in the past four games. They also were penalized 11 times for 124 yards.
Each turnover was followed by a Tampa Bay score. It was simply too much for the home team to overcome, handing the Falcons an unexpected loss after they won six of their first seven games under rookie coach Dan Quinn, matching their win total for last season.
Tampa Bay, with a rookie quarterback, didn’t turn it over at all.
The flurry of turnovers began with Jones getting the ball stripped by Kwon Alexander after catching a pass over the middle. The linebacker returned it 20 yards to the Falcons 21, setting up Barth’s first field goal from 38 yards.
Atlanta squandered a prime scoring opportunity with a botched snap. With second-and-goal at the 4, Mike Person sent the ball skidding along the turf out of the shotgun. When Ryan and Devonta Freeman collided trying to recover it, Jacquies Smith was able to pounce on it for the Buccaneers at the 22.
Tampa Bay then drove 73 yards in 10 plays, settling for a 23-yard field goal by Barth.
The third Atlanta turnover of the first half again came on Tampa Bay’s side of the field. Ryan threw an ill-advised pass into triple coverage and Alexander, who seemed to be everywhere, made the interception at the Bucs 35. He returned it 15 yards to midfield with 1:23 left in the half.
This time, Winston guided Tampa Bay all the way to the end zone. The rookie hit Mike Evans on a 21-yard completion before connecting with Cameron Brate on a 20-yard TD with 30 seconds remaining.
As the players trotted off the field, the Atlanta fans showered their team with boos.
The heckling continued when Ryan fumbled on the Falcons’ first possession of the second half. A botched handoff to Freeman was recovered by Henry Melton at the Bucs 24.
Tampa Bay drove 76 yards in just seven plays, Winston finishing the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.